Lemongrass is a perennial herb that grows in bushy clumps.
It’s known for its bright, lemony flavor and scent.
Lemongrass requires full sun and well-drained, moist soil.
Water and mist grass regularly if you live somewhere dry.
Have you ever eaten Tom Kha Gai, Thai curry, Vietnamese chicken, or any number of other Asian dishes and thought to yourself, “What is that super-tasty, lemony flavor?” The answer is very likely lemongrass. This delicious herb shows up regularly in Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian cuisine. You can add it to sauces, salads, teas, soups, and even desserts—its light-but-complex flavor is bound to make any dish more delicious.
And if you’re wondering how to grow lemongrass, you’re in luck. This fragrant, beautifully floral herb is easy to grow (both indoors and outdoors) under the right conditions. You’ll be making delectable stir-frys, slow-roasted meats, and curries in no time.
What Is Lemongrass?
Known for its bright, citrusy flavor and intoxicating aroma, lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a perennial herb with origins that span South and Southeast Asia, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It’s often called fever grass, Cochin grass, and Malabar grass, in addition to a host of other names. Lemongrass grows in big bushy clumps, and its stalks are woody and light green; you use the tender, white core of the stalk for cooking.
Where Should I Grow Lemongrass?
Lemongrass is incredibly easy to care for, making it one of the best new plants for novice gardeners and skilled gardeners alike. This tasty herb is grown widely in the tropics, but it can also be grown as an annual in cooler climates. You can opt to grow it in containers or in the ground.
Just make sure to leave enough space for it to flourish—lemongrass will reach a height of 3 to 5 feet and a width of 2 feet during the growing season. If you’re planting it in a pot, it’s best to choose at least a 5-gallon (or larger) container.
When Should I Grow Lemongrass?
You should plant lemongrass in springtime, after the last frost of the season—this sun-loving plant needs warm, humid conditions and full sunlight in order to thrive. Cold temperatures and frost will severely damage or kill it.
How Much Water Does Lemongrass Need?
In terms of how to grow lemongrass, it’s really important to nail the water requirements. This plant needs abundant moisture. It definitely prefers regular rainfall and humidity, so if this isn’t the type of climate you live in, be sure to mist and water your plant regularly. Lemongrass plants in containers tend to need more water than those in the ground.
When in doubt, check the soil—it should be moist, never dry.
What Else Should I Know About Caring for Lemongrass?
Whether you’re growing it in containers or in the ground, lemongrass requires a few key things to grow well: direct sunlight and well-drained, nutrient-dense soil. It’s generally very easy to care for, and it grows quickly, especially when summer arrives.
Here’s what you need to know about the optimal temperature, light, and soil conditions for growing lemongrass, the pruning requirements, and which pests and diseases to be on the lookout for.
This plant prefers moist (but well-drained), rich loam soil with high organic content. Adding a layer of organic mulch can help with soil water retention. As long as the soil is rich in nutrients and you regularly mulch with organic matter, you shouldn’t need to use synthetic fertilizer.
Lemongrass requires full sun. A minimum of six hours of direct sunlight per day is the rule. This plant should never be in the shade.
One of the most important things to know about caring for lemongrass is that it loves humidity. It thrives in the heat of summertime. As such, you should always bring your plants indoors during cold snaps.
Regarding plant pruning, if your lemongrass lives for more than one season, the best time to cut it is right before spring (while it’s still dormant).
Pest Prevention and Disease
Lemongrass is a natural insect repellent (it contains citronella, a common pest deterrent), so you rarely have to worry about pests or diseases. That said, sometimes lemongrass grown in containers can attract spider mites. An insecticidal soap should take care of this, or you could simply spray the bugs with a powerful stream of water.
Should I Hire a Professional Landscaper to Plant Lemongrass?
While you could hire a local landscaper to plant lemongrass, this is an easy (and fun) task to accomplish on your own. To make things even easier: If you’d rather buy a small starter plant, you can always consult with a specialty nursery or seed company (instead of starting from seed). You may also be able to find fresh stalks of lemongrass at Asian grocery stores, which will root when placed in a glass of water.